Victims Of Press Abuse

Christopher Jefferies

"We are often told that the Press in this country is among the best in the world! I disagree - though there are still one or two newspapers whose journalists can be genuinely proud of what they achieve. But in too many cases declining circulation has encouraged a race to the bottom. Scurrilous exploitation has replaced informing people's minds. The Leveson Inquiry heard a devastating catalogue of sleaze and corruption so shocking that no one could be in any doubt of what needed to be done to these Augean Stables.

In the event, the Leveson Report's recommendations for reform were remarkably measured - the very minimum necessary to protect the public from further abuse. Yet even these are being shamelessly resisted by a majority of editors and proprietors. Hacked Off is to be congratulated for its stand on behalf of the public, very many journalists and press standards everywhere to ensure that powerful vested interests are not allowed to get away with yet another feeble attempt at self-interested cosmetic reform. If the Press can't be trusted to hold themselves to account, they have no right to pretend they have any role in holding anyone else to account."

Kate & Gerry McCann

Paul Dadge

Jane Winter

"I am a journalist’s daughter and I believe passionately in the freedom of the press. However, the press does not have a licence to ruin people’s lives or reputations, and it should never be above the law. Unfortunately, the press in the UK is largely run by a handful of newsgroups who have the power to corrupt politicians and others in public office, such as police officers, and they have abused that power over and over again. In my own case, highly confidential emails were hacked using a trojan computer virus. The Leveson Charter is full of sensible proposals for curbing the press when it breaks its own rules – it is all about self-regulation and not about state regulation. In setting up IPSO, which is virtually indistinguishable from the old, completely discredited, Press Complaints Council, the media barons are not only rejecting the Leveson Charter. They are sending the clear message that they want to cling on to their power and that they believe it is acceptable to abuse that power. I think that is fundamentally undemocratic. If the press cannot regulate themselves properly – and it seems that they cannot – then, like every other profession, they will have to accept external, independent regulation. I hope that they will see sense and that they will put their own house in order while they still have the chance, but I have my doubts."

Margaret & James Watson

"Although we strongly support the House of Commons Cross-Party Royal Charter, we are outraged at the deliberate exclusion of families of homicide victims from the Cross-Party Royal Charter Regulatory System. Families of the deceased have been repeatedly disenfranchised by consecutive UK governments and their officials responsible for upholding the basic human rights of all UK citizens, with a special emphasis placed on those who, through no fault of their own have been placed in the unforgivable position of trying to uphold the good name and reputation of a murdered love one whose good character has been systematically destroyed by unethical journalist and their editors who have no moral compass and have no hesitation in abusing their position within their newspaper to tear apart the true character of murdered victims with impunity as they know only too well that families of the deceased have no legal standing under UK wide defamation legislation.

"The double blow of families of homicide victims being denied access to redress through the Cross-Party Agreement and the UK defamation legislation has had a devastating effect on families of murdered victims. While some very influential editors will no doubt be delighted at the exclusion of families of the deceased from the Cross-Party agreement. To add to that injustice, politicians have shown their complete indifference to added trauma defamation of homicide victims on the deceased crime victim's family by ignoring the combined EU Victims Support Organisations, submission to the 2010 EU consultation paper titled, "Taking Action on Rights, Support and Protection of Victims of Crime and Violence, which states, "Currently, there is a gap in the legislative protection victims and the bereaved family's right to privacy and family life. In some countries, defamation legislation does for instance not cover homicide victims, which is one of the protective measures we wish to change".

"Politicians have been quick to call certain sections of the press self-serving, we say the same of our political leaders and off politicians in general, who take advantage of their political status to do numerous TV and Press interviews to uphold their and their deceased family members' good name and reputation, a right that is denied to their constituents."

The Dowler Family

Jacqui Hames

Máire M Davies

"My phone was hacked by Glenn Mulcaire. But even if it hadn’t been, I would still be a supporter of Hacked Off and its campaign for more responsible journalism. Here’s why.

I come from a family of journalists, teachers and trade union activists. I have been all three myself at various stages of my career. After a first degree in English, I did two years NCTJ training on newspapers in Liverpool and Peterborough, before moving into magazine journalism. Later, as a mature student, I gained a PhD in psychology, with a specialist research interest in children and young people and their relationship with media. I am currently a professor of Media Studies, working in a university department teaching young people who want to work in the media. This includes bright, enthusiastic students on an NCTJ-validated MA course in Journalism.

Throughout my academic career teaching in four prestigious media schools, both in the USA and the UK, I have never met a journalism student who wasn’t passionately concerned about fairness in reporting; a favourite topic for dissertation work is ‘bias’ in the press. Students complete their courses knowing they mustn’t publish lies, and knowing that if they alienate and abuse people in the local communities they work in, they will not be able to do their jobs. I continue to believe that this approach is the foundation of good journalism; without it, public trust is lost and without public trust, journalism has no point. I was struck by the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer recent finding that in 2013, " 69 per cent of respondents believe the UK media has a corruption problem; higher than any other sector… a dramatic increase since the 2010 survey when less than 40 per cent believed the sector was affected by corruption." This is an awful statistic for those who want to defend journalism.

Phone hacking gets close to home

As a media academic, and former journalist, I had been following the phone hacking saga with great interest. In spring 2012, I was shocked and astonished to find myself part of it. An old friend and former academic colleague, John Tulloch, who had been seriously injured in the 7/7 tube bombings in 2005, phoned to warn me that I would be contacted by the Metropolitan Police investigating phone hacking. His phone had been hacked in 2006 by Glenn Mulcaire on behalf of the News of the World, and my and my husband’s mobile phone numbers had been obtained from John’s phone. Our phones, too, had been hacked, as we found out in summer 2012 when my husband and I were interviewed by officers from Operation Weeting.

It appeared that John Tulloch may have been targeted because he made critical remarks about the use The Sun had made of his photograph, taken just after the bombing. The photograph showed him emerging from Edgware Rd tube station, wounded and shocked, swathed in bandages, and it was used, without his permission, to suggest that Tony Blair was right about proposed anti-terrorism legislation. John did not think that Tony Blair was right – and said so in newspaper interviews. There are many despicable reasons for journalists to hack people’s phones – but this one, targeting a terrorist victim because of his perfectly valid objections to the way the press distorted his experience, takes the prize. Coming from the champions of ‘press freedom’ and ‘free speech’ it is the height of cynical hypocrisy.

I am grateful to Hacked Off for being almost the only set of voices to represent people like me, and people who’ve had a very much worse experience than me, at the hands of the cynical press. Every time I read phrases such as ‘simpering luvvies’ or ‘scumbag celebrities’ (Rupert Murdoch’s term) in the press, to describe people like myself and others who support Hacked Off, I feel it’s one more nail in the coffin of the honest, fair journalism that my students want to believe and work in. Without such honesty and fairness in our public discourse, none of us is safe – and that includes journalists. And, as the tabloid response to the outcome of the recent hacking trial shows, - ‘why spend all this money on giving our mates a fair trial?’ - THEY STILL DON’T GET IT."

John Tulloch

"Partly through my experience as a media academic over 40 years, and partly as a result of my direct experience of British newspapers' unethical and/or illegal responses to my injuries during the 7/7 terrorist attack on London, I am deeply conscious that we are facing a serious problem for our democracy at this time.

This threat to democracy isn't the risk to newspaper freedom that much of our corporate press claims to see in the Leveson recommendations. I am fully convinced by the arguments and the facts put forward by organisations like Hacked Off that there is no threat at all to freedom and democracy in the Leveson recommendations. Quite the contrary: they are the minimum of what will secure democracy through the press; and my view is that Lord Leveson was shrewd in trying to find a cautious balance which would be broadly acceptable. He is proved right in his balanced approach in so far as all three major parties in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the National Union of Journalists, a senior British judge and significant barristers, many of Britain's most prestigious names in the Arts and public life, and a significant majority of the British population agree in principle with the Leveson report. Against all that stands the corporate press.

Let's make this clear: when the press claim to stand for democracy they always target the politicians as the threat. They are right to be vigilant in that quarter, and have in the past done important work in that regard. But what they never mention when holding 'truth to power' is the power to control information and interpretation by their own corporate owners and organisations. It is there that an equivalent threat to democracy resides.

I have been a proud and senior member of the university sector for many years, and recognize in those institutions at least as much of a contribution to a critically thinking, non-passive democracy as the press. Yet universities are regulated more robustly than the Leveson recommendations suggest for the press. So why do the IPSO people go on bleating about the supposed Leveson threat to democracy and that they 'are the only game in town'? It is because they enjoy considerable power over British democracy. Near the end of his term as U.S. President, soldier and statesman Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the threat to U.S. democracy of the new post-Second World War amalgam, 'the military industrial complex' - and he warned that unversity research could easily succumb to this complex also. Today we have what is increasingly becoming apparent as a 'corporate surveillance complex', where both state secret agencies and corporate newspapers pry into, control and profit by their play between the invasion of 'privacy' and securitisation against 'secrecy'.

In contrast, true citizenship resides in our ability to be individually critical and reflective about the operation of all sources of power and their ability to control our critical spirit via diminished information, surveillance and invasion of privacy. So the phone hacking crisis is only the 'illegal' edge of the need to fight for a more critical public space. The culture of the media and its ethics is equally at issue, as I found via the politically manipulated use of my 7/7 'iconic' image by the Murdoch empire, the hacking of my telephone by the Murdoch empire, the doorstopping invasion by the Murdoch empire of my right to privacy when the bomb squad brought my wrecked clothes back to me after 7/7. These are just mere details in the broader issue of press culture and ethics which the Prime Minister asked Lord Leveson to inquire into, and which, in my judgment, is an even wider issue residing in the inter-relation of corporate and state surveillant power in a genuine threat to democracy."